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Antiphon - A Tribute to John Manduell
Mátyás SEIBER (1905-1960)
Besardo Suite No. 2
for string orchestra (1942) [13:00]
Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Antiphon op. 85 for string orchestra (1973) [11:14]
Peter CROSSLEY-HOLLAND (1916-2001)
Suite No. 1 for string orchestra (1938) [12:13]
Gordon CROSSE (b. 1937)
Elegy and Scherzo Alla Marcia
for string orchestra (1981) [9:34]
Anthony GILBERT (b. 1934)
Another Dream Carousel for string orchestra (2000) [7:08]
John MANDUELL (b. 1928)
Rondo for Nine for string octet (2005) [12:23]
Manchester Chamber Ensemble/Richard Howarth rec. Withington School, Manchester, 16-17 July 2007. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

This collection of pieces for string orchestra marks the eightieth birthday of the composer and music administrator Sir John Manduell in 2008. He was Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, 1971-1996. In this and in other capacities he was an active encourager of young composers. He commissioned and presented some 250 works from a wide spectrum of composers. 

Seiber's Besardo Suite No. 2 for strings is from1942 and takes its name from the 1603 Thesaurus Harmonicus by Jean-Baptiste Besard. It was premiered by the Boyd Neel Orchestra on 3 December 1945 at the Wigmore Hall with the composer conducting. The music has the flavour of Warlock's Capriol, Moeran's Whythorne's Shadow and Serenade and Rubbra's Farnaby Improvisations. The First Besardo Suite is for full orchestra. 

Lennox Berkeley's Antiphon is dedicated to Manduell. It became a something of a Cheltenham Festival perennial being premiered there in 1973 and repeated in 1974, 1978, 1981 and 1993. It is in two segments and is written in language far more emotional than we are accustomed to from Berkeley at this stage in his career. It is potent writing, full of passion and with a Tippett-style adrenaline rush. The second of the two movements is more understated but remains heavily freighted with emotion - rather like a more contemporary version of Josef Suk's Wenceslas Meditation

It is good to welcome the three movement Suite No.1 for string orchestra by Peter Crossley-Holland. This work, together with his Violin Sonata, won him a scholarship to the RCM to study with John Ireland in 1938-39. The folk-like first movement gives place to a touching Celtic melody akin to Danny Boy, before the return of the step-it-lively finale, again Capriol-style. 

The Crosse Elegy and Scherzo is a rewrite of the central movements of his 1979 string quartet. The music rumbles dissonance and the occasional angularity. There is also the odd flash of writing typical of Britten. The piercing Elegy is succeeded by the gawky pizzicato Alla Marcia

Anthony Gilbert's Another Dream Carousel has an aggressive desperate ruthlessness about it which gives place to a not untense and often piercingly searing poignant waltz sequence. The work is dedicated to Gilbert's pre-war Viennese friend Daisy Koppmann: born 1922; date of death unknown. 

Manduell's Rondo for Nine is for string octet plus double-bass. This is a dramatic and virtuosic work with much prominence for the double-bass. It also may remind you of the rhetorical attack of Maw's Life Studies. The work rises to a boiling tormented climax at both the bass and upper sectors of the spectrum. Mid-period Tippett-like chatter intervenes from time to time but the whole feels well resolved. 

John Turner, that magician of the recording project and animateur of so much musical life in the North-West, provides the liner-notes. 

We wish Sir John many years to come and hope to hear more of his own compositions. 

This is then a provocative collection which may well set you exploring some new names. As an anthology is full of pleasing if not always undemanding invention.

Rob Barnett




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